A passenger is suing Southwest Airlines for “mental anguish,” after his flight landed at the wrong airport.
Flight 4013 was scheduled to fly from Chicago's Midway International Airport to Branson Airport, in Missouri, in January 2014. However, the plane landed at M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport, about nine miles away.
While a plane mistakenly landing at the wrong airport is itself alarming, the key difference between the two airports is that Branson Airport’s runway is 7,140 feet long, while M. Graham Clark’s is only 3,738 feet. Upon landing on the much shorter runway, passengers reported they felt a hard brake, and were thrown harshly forward, with bags spilling from overhead compartments, according to Business Insider.
Passenger Troy Haines' lawsuit against the airline claims he was “immediately struck with fear and anxiety over potentially crashing” after the flight landed, according to the Branson Tri Lakes News. He says he developed a fear of flying in the months afterward; he claims he also had to change jobs at “substantially diminished salary” since he was unable to fly for work. According to the petition filed by Haines’ attorney, several key factors contributed to the flight’s incorrect landing.
The petition states that the captain had never been to Branson, and the first officer had only flown once. Despite this, the crew decided to make a visual approach to the airport rather than relying on instruments, and the first officer was not wearing his glasses. The investigation conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board in 2014, as reported by USA Today, confirmed these factors. At the time, Southwest suspended both pilots.
“We can confirm that the pilots have been removed from active flying pending the investigation,” a Southwest spokesperson told USA Today in 2014. “We continue to support the NTSB in their investigation.”
Southwest also made an effort to compensate all 124 passengers on board directly after the event: “We have since reached out to each customer directly to apologize, refund their tickets, and provide future travel credit as a gesture of goodwill for the inconvenience.”